Overview: Whither the twins? This question permeates Batman: White Knight Presents: Generation Joker, less a youth culture cri de coeur than a warm-hearted family road trip, seeking answers to the question: can you escape your villainous past? And are the sins of the father visited upon his children to the third and fourth generations?
Title: Batman: White Knight Presents: Generation Joker
Writers: Katana Collins & Clay McCormack (Script), Sean Murphy (Story)
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Main Cover: Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart
Variant Covers: Mirka Andolfo, Dan Mora, Matteo Scalera, Dan Panosian, Rose Besch, Clayton McCormack, Walter Simonson
Release Date: April 16, 2024 (hardcover)
Jackie and Bryce, twins of Harley Quinn and Jack Napier (the Joker) are on the run with a holo AI version of their dad. Meanwhile, Harley and Bruce (married!) try to figure out how to raise them, as Bruce does a job for Diana Prince at the FBI, to gain his freedom from prison legally. AI Jack left a message for Harley, saying his hard drive is degrading, so he only has a week to “live” and wants to try to help Jackie avoid his mistakes. Bruce gives Harley some clues and tools, and she sets out in pursuit but is waylaid by Neo-Joker (Marian Drews) and Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley). Ventriloquist’s daughter traps Joker’s twins as revenge for his instigation of Azrael murdering her dad.
Harley learns Neo-Joker has been chatting with Bryce online, and the two decide to hunt together. Jackie saves her brother and AI father with the Batmobile, and they continue on their journey. At the graves of the Gotham villains, including Jack himself, Jackie, Bryce, and Jack fight but are interrupted by Joker fanboys. After a chase, they reveal themselves as Joker’s kids and are promoted to leaders of the Jokerz.
Bryce foolishly reveals the Jack AI to the Jokerz, causing a fight, which damages the drive. Harley and Marion smash through the window, beating the Jokerz, but Bryce and Jackie flee in the Batmobile again. Marion gives Harley a pep talk, and Harley renames her “Riot.”
Jackie decides to try to bring Jack back for good, sneaking into Mr. Freeze’s lab, only to be confronted by Freeze himself.
Freeze reveals that he invented the AI that stores Jack’s mind, but as the three try to figure out a way to save Jack, Diana Prince and John Stewart of the FBI announce their arrival. Freeze reveals he called them and plans to delete the Joker to save them and the world, but Bryce uses an old Joker boxing glove gag to knock him down. Harley and Riot arrive, but Riot accidentally triggers Jack to shift into Joker briefly, and Freeze insists that it’s too dangerous to leave him alive. Riot reveals her true motive – to copy the dying Ivy’s mind and then destroy Joker forever. She escapes with the AI drive, freezing Harley and Bryce. Freeze thaws Bryce, and the twins escape. Harley, still trapped, mourns that her kids are all alone – but Batman is watching.
The twins catch up with Riot at her home, the old carnival, and she plans to show them Jack and Joker’s true past.
Bruce rescues Harley (with Freeze’s help), and after a brief kiss, he sends her after Riot and the twins.
Jack controls the carnival rides and robots to fight Riot, but the kids convince him to tell the truth – he kept Two-Face alive in torment to perfect his AI plan.
Jackie convinces her dad to help them fix his mistake in the past. Harley arrives, fighting Riot, but 2.0 Face attacks. Bryce figures out that they can put the drive into the 2.0 Face robot, and climbs up to insert it. It works, but Jack is still dying until Batman shows up with his own solution – a drive stolen from the FBI and modified by Batman and Freeze. Jack figures out why Ivy is dying – the 2.0 Face robot’s radiation – and tells Riot to save her by getting her far away. Jack and Bruce then go on the lam from the FBI, and Harley and her twins reconcile.
In the epilogue, we discover that the FBI’s goal was 2.0 Face’s power source – a glowing green rock, which Director Luthor is very pleased to have.
Sean Murphy, currently working on his modern Zorro reboot, once again turns to his creative partners in the White Knight universe, his wife (romance novelist Katana Collins) and artist/writer Clay McCormack to handle writing duties to push forward the White Knight storyline. Once again, Collins spearheads a very strong entry in this reimagining. Her focus on the relationships between Harley, Joker, and Batman highlights the beating heart of the universe. Oftentimes, the “main” White Knight titles can get a bit too “big,” and the versions of characters like Jim Gordon, various villains, etc get more than a little watered down. But when the love/antagonistic triangle of Batman/Harley/Jack takes center stage, everything shines with the care and thought put into them. The meta level of Harley, Batman, and Joker’s place in pop culture presents the analytic reader with much to think about, while the emotional developments continue to engage beautifully. The characters of the twins are really nicely rendered extrapolations of their parents and upbringing. Though the book calls itself “Generation Joker,” there’s not so many “yellow vest” riots that such a moniker suggests, and more the passing of the torch from the old to the new.
That torch passing also comes with the question of generational guilt – are the twins guilty of the Joker, Harley, and Batman’s wrongs? Can Jack himself be redeemed from the Joker’s evil? I really appreciate how Collins and McCormack don’t shy away from guilt, but also don’t present either a nihilistic or an easy feel-good answer. As James Tynion IV showed with his writing of Harley Quinn – you have to have your evil characters acknowledge the harm they did, and then do the right thing instead. That’s the way to redemption. There’s a bit of fumbling with characters like Marion Drews/Neo-Joker/Riot, but even her flatter character doesn’t distract too much from the central themes of growth and commitment.
Brilliant Italian artist/writer Mirka Andolfo pencils this youthful work, and her sharp angles and extremely appealing character designs work beautifully. Additionally, her linework is a lot sharper than it has been for some of her creator-owned books lately, which makes it a good fit for Murphy and the other artistic collaborators, like Matteo Scalera and Klaus Janson. As expected, a White Knight book looks simply gorgeous, even though in the finale some of the action doesn’t quite move smoothly from panel to panel. On the art front, Generation Joker more than fits into this high quality visual universe.
The trade will almost certainly contain not only the main cover gallery, but also the variant covers. Sean Murphy has recently said that he originally just wanted to do one variant, open to order, as with his previous series, but retailers said that the incentive variants were helping them to drive sales, so he relented and played the current DC Comics incentive cover game. Thankfully, he did spring for some of the more popular collectible artists, who produced some really excellent variants, so that itself is a huge bonus if you want to pick up this volume, as the cost of one trade is much smaller than the cost of even one of these incentive variants, and getting all six in one trade is a great deal (if what you’re excited about is having the art to look at, as I do).